RC Theatre Productions presents Don Giovanni, The Opera, at Heaven
Those of you who remember the 1980s will find much nostalgia in this highly original reworking of Mozart’s Don Giovanni. Richard Crichton’s production aims Mozart at a new audience and reinvents Don Giovanni himself as a gay, debauched playboy and nightclub owner in the heady world of the 1980s.
Cleo Pettit’s set is the first thing you notice on entering the club, and straightaway you are conveyed to 1987, the time being marked by various graphics of the period, including a conservative party campaign poster, film posters for Dirty Dancing and The Running Man, and a mock up of the Thames Television ident (5 years before they lost the franchise to Carlton). The evocation of the era is also greatly aided by the costumes, designed by Mia Flodquist, with the assistance of Samantha Gilsenan, which show great attention to detail. Two personal favourites of mine were Marina’s white lace boots, and Leo’s office handbag. Finally, the hair and makeup by Evan Huang also helped to set the scene.
All gender roles in the opera have been reversed apart from the Don himself (now just Don), and the relocation of the sexual roles works very well. Don’s pursuit of an endless series of sexual adventures and his indulgence in sensuality of all kinds lends itself to a gay world as readily as to a heterosexual one, and the addition of the late 80s drug scene adds further to the moral ambiguity of the story (although they have pre-empted the use of Viagra by more than a decade!). The opera is performed in a new English translation by Ranjit Bolt, though I imagine the translation is far from literal. Said to be inspired by New York’s legendary Studio 54 and Matthew Bourne’s all-male Swan Lake, the production seemed to draw ideas from many quarters. In the early part of the story, Don reminded me of the character of Stuart in Queer as Folk, with broken hearts strewn left, right and centre; a later scene, where he is corrupting Milton Keynes sweethearts Zak and Marina, was evocative of the Rocky Horror Picture Show; but as the show progressed, and the libretto got more outrageous, it was reminiscent of the musical humour of the wonderful Avenue Q.
Musically, the opera was a delight. The orchestra were tight, and played exceedingly well despite taking the time to laugh at some of the more amusing parts of the libretto. Some interesting variation was provided by a disco backing track at one point (an adaptation of the Minuet by Vince Clarke), and Don accompanying himself on an acoustic guitar at another. All the cast gave excellent performances as actors as well as singers: vocally my favourites were Mark Cunningham (Eddie) and Stephanie Edwards (Olivia) who both entranced me with their voices, though Duncan Rock, (Don) and Helen Winter (Marina) were also marvellous.
Don Giovanni kept its energy high throughout, and I assume this is a testament to the skills of director Dominic Gray. The ending was a bit ambiguous – I wasn’t quite sure where Don ended up – but this in no way took away from my enjoyment of the evening; which ended with a blast of Falco’s Amadeus, thus tying the opera and the 80s together and rounding everything off nicely. I highly recommend this inventive, capricious, laugh-out-loud, libidinous, and euphonious entertainment. Catch it while you can – and look out for a surprise cameo from a famous camp disco group!
Don Giovanni is at Heaven, Under The Arches, Villiers Street, London WC2N 6NG on the following dates: Sunday 22nd April, 5pm, Monday 23rd April, 7pm, Sunday 29th April, 5pm, Monday 30th April, 7pm. Tickets can be purchased from http://www.ticketmaster.co.uk/venueartist/254189/1677123?camefrom=CFC_UK_TH0401_WEBLINK